1/21/2009

Father Tom McMichael

I was introduced to Tom when he arrived at our parish as a seminarian a little over a year ago. I thought we were hosting a typical young man, who had nearly completed his studies and was getting some "field" experience under his belt. Now, when I say "introduced," I mean I was at a Mass where Fr. Scott announced his arrival and sort of saw Tom standing toward the middle of the church, far from where we usually sit.

Tom's not a "go-getter" in the classic gregarious sense - he's very quiet and unassuming, and I honestly forgot about him until he started serving as a Eucharistic Minister on the same Sundays I was a Lector. He was older than I expected a 'seminarian' to be and perhaps a bit more awkward with the routine of Mass. I put it down as an unfamiliarity with our parish; although the Mass has pretty much the same form all over the world, like the variation between households in the US, our parish has certain ways of doing things that I could see as possibly different from others.

Sometime around the summer of 2008, we heard he was going to become a deacon and his presence at Masses was more frequent. He tended to only serve the Eucharist, never lectoring or giving a homily, never really stepping into anything remotely considered limelight in the course of the Mass. Somewhere along there, I realized he was a family man although I never saw his wife with him, and sometime in there, I heard he had converted to Roman Catholicism. I do remember briefly wondering if they had perhaps broken up over his change of faith-form. Thankfully I was incorrect.

Later though, last Fall, Fr. Scott announced with great joy that Tom was being ordained as a deacon and mentioned that he and Tom's wife were both very excited about Tom's ordination. I missed the ceremony, unfortunately, and then it started to make more sense - Ah, yes, this married man would be like our other married deacon. That's good, we need the help - big parish, you know. Then Father went on to say they (he and Tom) had great hopes that soon Tom would be allowed into the priesthood.

Cool, I thought, Tom would make a great priest! I looked forward to hearing him lector the Gospel and wondered what his first homily would be like. In December, I got my chance, and his voice carried well, the homily was well-written, and he was obviously comfortable with speaking in front of others. It was only a few weeks after his deacon-ordination that we heard that Pope Benedict had sent word that Tom had been accepted for ordination. The Pope is the only one who can make that decision and in a very real sense, Tom was called by the Pope himself to be a priest in the Roman Catholic Church.

That's really when I realized I hadn't fully understood his story - Tom was a Lutheran pastor who served in a church not far from our town. He concelebrated with the more-local-to-his-church parish on several occasions and had great hopes in the 90's for the reunification of Lutherans with Roman Catholics. When that didn't happen, he started inquiry with the Archbishop and came in "full communion" along with his wife and two sons a few years ago. Still, there were no guarantees he would be able to return to the ministry he loved.

We attended his ordination in Seattle two weekends ago and he stood as deacon with his wife and grown sons at the beginning of Mass and by the end, he was standing as priest with all the other priests that had come to witness and celebrate.

The first married priest in the Archdiocese of Seattle and one of only about 100 in the US. I never thought I'd see the day and, like Obama's inauguration yesterday gave me hope for our nation, I have great hope again for the Church. Change comes slowly, painfully slow for many, including myself, but change *is* happening, *has* happened and I couldn't be prouder.

Fr. Tom doesn't want to be the poster child for the married priesthood. He emphasizes that he's the exception to the rule. His focus is on the opportunity to minister as he feels he's been called to do. The Archbishop acknowledged that Tom's first priority is God, but that his first responsibility is to his wife.

Tom's ministry will be complicated to manage but I imagine very fulfilling. Tom's story is a terrific example of integrity in action, of moving down a path that sometimes looks traditional but becomes something so much more because the focus is on the path, not the destination.

I hope he's able to stay with our parish awhile. It's possible we'll help him get his legs as a priest then he'll be assigned somewhere else. But we do need another priest in our parish and I know I'm not the only one making special requests at the foot of the altar.

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Next: Ambahan and Babayin

1/20/2009

Memory Keepers

Where were you when...

Barak Obama became the 44th President of the United States?

the Twin Towers came down?

the Berlin Wall crumbled?

the Challenger shuttle exploded?

Armstrong walked the moon?

I love blank books. From my first Nothing Book , a gift for my 9th or 10th birthday to my moleskine's, I have loved the potentiality of the blank page. All smooth, all ready for thoughts and experiences I had yet to have, to record the events great and small in the world.

I'm a compulsive, irratic, undisciplined journal-writer, apt to fill only journals part-way before abandoning them because...I simply stopped filling them. I think I create too much expectation on what should be written them and when that expectation no longer fits my experience, then I drop the journaling. Then later, I feel compelled by the shininess of a new journal, all fresh with possibility, to pick one up and try again. I have a full shelf of half-made journals, all testimony to great promise only partially fulfilled. I have dreams of organizing them, notions really and the skeleton of a plan which started with picking up a 5-Year Diary .

What in the world am I thinking, committing to a 5 year diary when I can hardly fill one? Each page is a day divided into sections for each year, five sections per page. The sections are small, only 5-6 lines, narrow in height. Hardly enough for musings. But it's not a musings book, it's a record book and at first I panicked wondering if I lead enough of a life to fill even just a few lines. Just writing about writing was depressing because I don't get to my writing everyday.

Then it occured to me - by buying this 5 year journal I was committing to not only live a life worth writing about but to write about my life because I'd view my life as worth writing about, even the seeming small things. So in goes the stuff about kid's basketball games, trips to Canada haberdasheries, and writing workshops.

A year from now, I'll get to see what I did in 2009 and maybe find the trends in my life, the low and high points, the cyclical nature of my living. And this thought lead me to look at those old journals again and think about how there might be a way to do the same over the course of several journals. Compile them all together, grouping according to days, see what comes of it. Someone, maybe Ver, mentioned in their blog once about journals that had pockets in the back cover so you could slip the cover of one book into the cover of the next, creating a stack of journals over time. I thought maybe if they were 32 pages in a journal or some other increment that would work well with a year, maybe I could still have the experience of handwriting my journals. I haven't found them since that post, though, and can't find the post unfortunately. The clerk at the fancy paper store in Vancouver hadn't heard of them either and Google searching for 'insertable journals' just brings up stuff not fit for viewing.

They only print 5-year diaries for the 20xx years - none for the 19xx years, so I'll have to record the days from my old journals differently, perhaps in Scrivener. I imagine it will be a sort of electronic cross-reference to the physical journals I've collected.

Life can't be reduced to the answers to a few questions, but the answers can point to meaningful connections, the stuff of memoirs and poems, folktales and novels.

...I was sitting on our gold shag carpet, sleepy and grumpy, trying to make out the images on our black and white TV that my parents were so excited about. That grey lined footprint in lunar sand...

...I was walking back to my hall after dinner and disbelieved on of my residents who told me they were gone, Christa McAuliffe and all the others. The light splashing on the counter was too soft, the hallway too loud with shuffling feet, the smell of sweat and dust too pungent for them to be gone...

...I caught the news after work that they had taken the Wall down themselves, the East Berliners. Saw them kick and shove that wall to stand on its ruins. I didn't see it go up, but I saw it come down. A few years later, my husband's family reconnected with their Yugoslavian relatives...

...I was sitting on the couch, breastfeeding my youngest daughter, watching TV instead of being present with her, seeing the planes and knowing that this was not a movie, this was not an accident, this was real too real much too real. I watched for two days then could not watch the news again for weeks, months, even now, I can't watch more than 5-10 minutes of the news...

...I sat with my coworkers in our lounge watching the streaming video on our presentation screen, then switched to listening on a transistor radio when the streaming stalled. I felt like someone from the last century tuning into hear Franklin D. on the radio. These are difficult times, but we have hope again...

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Next: Father Tom McMichael

1/19/2009

Lynda Barry



“I accept this award today with an abiding faith in America and an audacious faith in the future of mankind. I refuse to accept despair as the final response to the ambiguities of history.” Martin Luther King Jr accepting the Nobel Peace prize in 1964

Poodle with a Mohawk was the first Lynda Barry cartoon I had ever seen. The original poster was published in 1982, but I probably saw it in our college newspaper around 1984. My friends loved the the comic and I remember feeling vaguely confused about it. The style was different than the Sunday Funnies fare and the message was sharp. I got the irony, I think, but revisiting it now, I find myself seeing another side of the "audacious faith" King mentions.

In Poodle, Barry deftly captures the conundrum of the minority - hedged by stereotypes yet bubbling with unexpressed rage - she creates a character who moves beyond the stereotype into a visceral sense of self-determination (which reminds me a lot of Edwin San Juan who manages to take on the self-racism of minorities with comedy).

I picked up Barry's book What It Is in December, then this month, I stumbled upon a copy of One! Hundred! Demons! at our favorite used bookstore. The back bears evidence that the book was used as a text for English 410 (wish I knew who the instructor was) and inside there's a chapter dedicated to the Aswang. The book is based on painting exercise inspired by Hakuin Ekaku's painting One Hundred Demons.

One! Hundred! Demons! is a memoir in graphic form, meaning that Barry writes and illustrates her memoir in vivid detail and with the sharpness of Poodle. Through the exercises, Barry shares her experiences as a hapa-pinay (3/4 Anglo, 1/4 Filipina), an artist, a child growing up 'different' due to economic class, a human being trying to find her place in the world. There are moments of clarity she reaches after trying to make sense of the ambiguities in her life. Sometimes she reaches a stronger place, while others she simply realizes she's not as strong as she wishes she could be. Her work is overall "human" to me, prickly and beautiful all at once.

To my delight, I found Come Over, Come Over at the same bookstore. In this book, sisters Maybonne and Marlys are usually not on each other's side, and Barry unfolds their stories by tapping deftly into the helpless feelings and emerging strength unique to the ages of each sister. Mixed up with trying to figure out how to be loyal to their emotionally abusive mother and loving toward their absent father are references to pop-culture hallmarks of the mid-60's including Car Bingo and vice-principals who think their hip. Barry's work emerges from confusion and anger to achieve a hopeful space for both the characters and the reader. There's no trace of sentimentality or easy answers at the end of her books, just that sense of choice - we all have a choice to believe the stories of our circumstances or to create a new story from which we can thrive.

The last line in Come Over, Come Over reads: "P.S. I still think life is magical."

Audacious Faith

Audacity of Hope

We may not be able to control the circumstances of our experiences, but we can choose whether to respond with despair or hope. Both require energy.

Only one choice will give us dignity.




Yes We Can!





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Next: Memory Keeping